Spring Brings End to Hibernation, Bear Expert Wants Awareness

By Paige Browning

While spring prepares us to spend time outdoors, it also welcomes bears back out of hibernation. One wildlife expert wants campers, and northwest residents, to be bear aware.
Chuck Bartlebaugh: “The closest they’ve come is the Red Wagon, that’s downtown Spokane.” Chuck Bartlebaugh from the campaign called “Be Bear Aware” is talking about black bears. His organization works to educate people on how to interact with wildlife, and this time of year he’s educating about black and brown bears.
Bartlebaugh: “Coming out of hibernation, they’re really not looking to get into a confrontation. And they really don’t start eating right away after coming out, they may eat some grass and stuff like that.”
He says people have little to worry about if they don’t approach or feed black bears. But, its not unique to see them. Madonna Luers at Washington’s department of fish and wildlife says there’s a sheer abundance of black bears in Washington, especially in the northeast corner.
Luers:] “We get black bear incident reports a lot. In fact there’s 25-30,000 black bears across the state, and east of the Cascades may be at least half of them, at least.”
She says most reports are from rural residents, who she says should be strict in containing garbage, which bears see as food. If you do have a close encounter… that’s Bartlebaugh’s expertise.
Bartlebaugh: “Just assess the situation, is the bear agitated is the bear looking for a way to leave. And believe it or not the bear is doing the exact same thing you would be doing. It’s saying how do I get out of this situation, how do I get more room.”

But when in doubt, Bartlebaugh has used bear spray successfully two-out-of-two times in the wild.
Copyright 2014 Spokane Public Radio

Hunting guidelines for identifying black and brown bears: http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/bear_cougar/bear/index.html
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